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Impeachment returns

From NBC's Ken Strickland
On the Senate floor, the Senate has begun impeachment proceedings for U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent, a process which will take several weeks to complete. Kent is alleged to have sexually assaulted two employees and then lied about it to federal investigators. As part of a plea deal, he is serving a 33-month prison sentence.

In a letter to President Obama, Kent said he'd resign from the bench in June 2010. But some House members want him out sooner to prevent him from collecting his taxpayer-funded salary while he's in jail. House Republican Lamar Smith says that amounts to $465 a day.

Today proceedings in the Senate will look like this:
-- Five House members present four "articles of impeachment," which will be read aloud. Every senator is expected to be in attendance.

-- As is constitutionally required before the Senate trial begins, a senior Republican administers the oath to the acting President Pro Tempore, who in turn administers the oath to all senators.

-- The Senate will then pass two resolutions. The first summons Kent and sets a date by which he must file a response to the impeachment. The second resolution appoints a bipartisan impeachment committee, which starts the process of gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, etc.

The impeachment committee will take several weeks -- maybe months -- to complete its work before in the matter returns to the Senate floor. It takes two-thirds of senators present for a conviction.